Where Tragedy Intersects with Truth

Some stories leave a reader short of breath, muscles stiffened, dreading to turn the page because of the unavoidable outcome of the narrative arc. Katherine Clark’s story began on a routine Friday, volunteering at her son’s school. However, when she rounded the playground equipment in a schoolyard game of tag, one of the children bounded into the air from above and crashed into her head. She landed on the ground, paralyzed from the neck down, and Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope is her memoir of that collision and of her faithful response in the re-telling of it.

Because of the Fall

What followed that day in 2009 for Katherine, her husband, and her young children was a journey of why’s in which they also learned to trust God in the dark, even when answers did not come. As they waited for healing of Katherine’s crushed and lacerated spinal cord, they found the truth of C.S. Lewis’s words:

“We are not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.”

And in the case of the Clark family, God’s best was pretty painful. Although forty days of intense physical therapy and rehabilitation enabled Katherine to come home on her feet with a cane, her life was forever changed. Even today, nine years after the accident, she experiences difficulty in walking, muscle spasticity, balance issues, and continual nerve pain throughout her body.

Grieving, but not Depressed

The Clarks learned that grief is “the faithful response to loss.” (211) In excerpts from Care Page posts that were written during Katherine’s hospitalization, John Clark (Katherine’s husband) shared the family’s story of laughter and tears. Their grief over all that was lost with the accident was tempered by hope and gratitude, “the sense that God [was] not only near, but that He [was] doing something mighty and altogether lovely in [their] midst.”

The faithful response of the local church was key to this tenacity and “faithful response” within grief, and it was heartwarming to read about all the many ways in which the Body of Christ showed up for that young family:

  • A friend posted Bible verses in Katherine’s hospital room;
  • Meals were delivered to the hospital each day so Katherine and John could have a family dinnertime with their children;
  • Evening visitors were asked to wait until 6:15 to protect their family time;
  • Friends and family volunteered to stay with the children after John tucked them into bed so he could return to the hospital for some treasured time alone together.

The loving attention of God’s people and their prayers helped the Clarks to see beyond the pain and suffering to God’s redemptive purpose in it, to deal with their children’s sorrow, and to praise and grieve together.

Two Pervasive Responses to Grief

  1. If grief is seen as an unwelcome interloper, we’re quick to put a Romans 8:28 band aid on it instead of giving our attention to lament. Jesus models a right response to the death of Lazarus, for even though He was going to turn death on its head, he wept genuine tears and entered into grief with His friends.
  2. If grief becomes a way of life, indulged at every opportunity, we reject healing and become content in sadness.  Jesus’ question of the man at the pool of Bethesda (“Do you want to be healed?”) could be rhetorical, but probably not! Although it is true that we spend our days on this planet living in shadow, Katherine challenges readers to remember that our “darkness cannot overcome the light.” (127)

The transcendent truth that emerges from the story of Where I End is that we are asked to carry the weight of our story for the benefit of others who also have a holy history that requires their attention and acceptance. Although everyone will not be asked to experience quadripelegia, the miracle and the mess of each life reveals the power of God to carry us through pain and to sustain us through darkness. Even those events which could never in a million years be described as good, can be used to produce good in the hands of a God who knows us and loves us and is able to redeem our stories.


Many thanks to Moody Publishers for providing this copy of the book.

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Where I End: A Story of Tragedy, Truth, and Rebellious Hope simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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When God Says “Yes”

From her earliest days, Meadow Rue Merrill dreamed of adopting a child, and she longed to travel to Africa, even wrestling a promise from her husband that if she promised to marry him, he would not stand in the way of her going. Redeeming Ruth is Meadow’s record of God’s “yes” to her dreams — and it stands as powerful evidence that the unfolding of our dreams may not look exactly as we imagined.

International adoption is complicated even without a large family and economic limitations. The Merrill family had both, but when they met tiny Ruth, she captured their hearts.  Ruth  had traveled from Uganda through Welcome Home Ministries, Africa, to stay with a family in Maine (friends of the Merrils) where she could receive physical therapy. When Meadow and her husband Dana held Ruth’s limp body for the first time, they were astonished at her level of disability from cerebral palsy — and at the way their hearts responded to her.

Desire warred against ambivalence as Meadow and Dana weighed the wisdom of bringing a profoundly disabled African child into their already-full-and-busy home located in the whitest state in America. Yielding to what Meadow described as Dana’s “annoying habit of believing that God will take care of us,” (22) they took one tentative step after another, weathered countless setbacks, and put thousands of miles on their vehicle until one momentous day, Meadow and Ruth boarded a plane for Uganda to finalize Ruth’s adoption.

Time to Walk

In the spirit of “leaving the 99 to save one,” Meadow spent nearly a month in Uganda chasing paperwork, caring for Ruth in primitive surroundings, living among the other orphans and workers at Welcome Home. There, she gained insight to the hopelessness of Ruth’s future, forever trapped in a body with the skill set of a two-month-old infant, if she did not gain entrance to the United States and the privilege of hope that comes with education, health care, and rehabilitation.

Together, the Merrill family prayed for healing and trusted for progress, but what would healing look like? Her big brothers and sister prayed specifically that Ruth would walk and talk. Would a cochlear implant restore Ruth’s hearing? Meadow pondered theological implications of her daughter’s fragility:

“[P]erhaps God’s purpose was higher than ours. Perhaps instead of healing Ruth, he intended to heal us of our selfishness and pride. Wouldn’t that be a miracle?”

A Faith Journey into God’s Yes

Redeeming Ruth reminded me of why memoir is my favorite genre. Not everyone who reads Meadow’s descriptive prose will be able to appreciate her references to Brunswick area landmarks or have memories of sunny days at Popham Beach and walks around the trails of Mackworth Island that heightened my appreciation for the setting. However, it will be a rare reader who does not identify with the struggle to hold onto a dream that keeps slipping away or to continue in faith when sight is alarmingly out of sync with expected outcomes.

The Merrill family’s unique story is a valuable resource for anyone who is learning to trust God’s motives and struggling to live well in the tension of pursuing a dream while holding it loosely, for within the flow of story, priceless principles emerge:

Close the door on worries.

“I can believe what my  mind is telling me, which is ‘Panic!’ Or I can believe what the Bible tells me, which is that children are a blessing. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I close my eyes and picture myself physically putting my trust in God the way I’d put something in a cupboard. I give my worries to him. Then I close the door.”   (149)

Love like a fool.

“Even if you love and lose, keep sharing God’s love anyway. Love in the face of suffering and grief and heartache and loss. Love beyond racial and religious and physical borders and barriers. . . You won’t have to look far to find someone who is hurting, someone without a voice, someone waiting to know they are loved.” (203)

There is nothing of value that may be lost here that will not be redeemed in heaven.

“Everything life takes, love restores. Everything. Broken bodies. Broken hearts. Broken dreams. No matter how painful. No matter how devastating. God can transform even our greatest sorrow into something good.” (201)

The unfolding of Ruth’s story rebukes the notion that God is made visible only in happy endings. Loving and caring for Ruth became Meadow’s offering to God, “one small piece of this broken, pain-pierced world that [she] could redeem.” It will surprise no one who has read the New Testament that redemption is a costly process. In the midst of grinding fatigue and great joy, discouragement and soaring faith, mourning and soul-deep comfort, the Merrill family continues to live their way into God’s high purpose for bringing Ruth into their family.

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This book was provided by Hendrickson Publishers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Additional Resources

Downeast Magazine is a favorite here in Maine, and Meadow shares an excerpt from Redeeming Ruth in their March 2017 issue. You can read it here.

A fellow member of the Redbud Writers Guild, Meadow wrote an article featuring her adoption journey for September 2017 issue of The Redbud Post: A Promise, a Prayer, and an Irresistible Smile.

For more of Meadow’s fine writing, including her blog, be sure to check out her website.

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Featured image from Meadow Rue Merrill’s website.

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Chickens at the Crossroads

Stop signs and flashing lights preside over busy intersections.  Commas and semi-colons mark the collision of clauses.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if there were some ready marker or built-in gulp of air at the major crossroads of life?

Kelly Chripczuk began living the transition from ten years in full-time mothering mode when her youngest children went off to school.  “Who will I be,” she wondered, “in the face of so much open time and space?”  Chicken Scratch: Stories of Love, Risk & Poultry is a thirty-day record of Kelly’s vital signs in the early days of this transition, because one of the first things Kelly did to mark the beginning of her new listening-to-life is to buy ten laying hens.

She soon realized that chickens (like children) are inconvenient.  They get out when they are supposed to stay in.  They are uninhibited with their bodily functions.  Even so, we welcome them into our lives as a reminder that we also are inconvenient at times, and that we refuse to bow down to gods of convenience or efficiency.  Convenience and efficiency are not the boss of us.

capture

 

In  Kelly’s  longing to join the psalmists at the “intersection between heaven and earth, writing, singing, and praying from the very center of their lives,” her chickens became a symbol for a way of life that was spacious, rooted in nature, and that demonstrates the truth that “there’s no arena of life in which God is not able to be known.”

With equal measures of self-deprecating humor and here’s-what-I-learned wisdom, Kelly shares stories that kindled within me a deep thankfulness —  for the fact that tools and bicycles now inhabit the hen house on this country hill, but also for the glorious reality that life with critters is helping me to see that there are “different ways of being.”  I can’t control our family’s pet St. Bernard’s predilection for using window sills as a handy chin rest, and maybe that’s a good thing because, as Kelly points out, “there’s only so much you can control.”  I need that reminder in as many different contexts as possible.

As she grows deep roots into the person she is becoming, Kelly expands her heart around the ache of life and death (after all, things happen to chickens), and, in the process, she gains a heart that is more open to joy.  In the day to day experiences of love, risk, and poultry, she begins to find the courage to live the life she loves.

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This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

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Wreathed in Contentment

A toddler-sized pair of skates wired to an evergreen spray and adorned with a bow — that’s the best I can do!  But not everyone is craft-challenged like I am, and Sarah O. Maddox has made a practice of hanging a beautiful wreath on the door of her home no matter what the season as a symbol of contentment, a sign that her heart has said yes to the gift of that particular house in that particular location — a sign that her heart has said yes to God.

In You Can Learn to be Content, a book that incorporates both memoir and devotional inspiration, Sarah describes her discovery that she had an uneasy relationship with contentment, and then shares her journey toward living in the light that Isaiah speaks of:

Who among you fears the Lord
    and obeys the voice of his servant?
Let him who walks in darkness
    and has no light
trust in the name of the Lord
    and rely on his God.  (Isaiah 50:10)

Hebrews 10:35-38 reminds believers that the root of discontent is a mindset of doubt and fear, admonishing us not to “cast away our confidence” in Him.

While there’s nothing wrong with having an eye for improvement, Sarah shares three common obstacles to contentment that steal our joy:

  1.  Unmet expectations lead to disappointment, frustration, and regret, and “when the circle of regret becomes [our] resting place, contentment flees out the door.”
  2. My response to others gives them power over me.  Poet Fran McDaniel shares this wisdom:  “Choose not to be offended; rather, seek to understand.”
  3. The truth is that “what’s down in the well may come up in the bucket!”  When under pressure and plagued with uncertainty, walking in the way of contentment has to be a conscious choice that comes from within.

From Jehoshaphat’s prayer in the midst of what looked to be a losing battle, Sarah encourages her readers that even when we feel powerless in the battle for contentment, the answer is to look to God for guidance.  Peppered with examples of her own struggles through perplexing circumstances, she shares homely wisdom from her museum of memories:

  • “Because God wants you to trust Him, He will see to it that you have to.”
  • “God:  Vacate and let me occupy.”
  • “A contented woman is not dependent on anyone else for her satisfaction.  She has not made her house, her financial situation, her husband, her children, or her friends slaves of her expectations.”

Psalm 62:5 gives words for the heart of the woman who desires contentment in her bones:

“My soul,
Wait silently for God alone,
For my expectation is from Him . . .”

With this wisdom, even in the midst of changing circumstances, the woman who believingly follows Jesus Christ can live with a heart that is wreathed in contentment.

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This book was provided by the author in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

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Shame-filled to Shame-free

Christine unwrapped her sandwich, completely unaware of the scornful expressions on the faces of her Kindergarten classmates.  “Mmmmm . . . feta cheese and olive,” she thought, taking that first delectable bite.

“What’s that stinky stuff you’re eating,” wailed one boy, wrinkling his nose in disgust. “She’s eating Greek cheese!” someone announced.  “No wonder Greeks stink!”

Surrounded by scowling faces, Christine Caine was being schooled in shame, and even though her six-year-old self did not have a word to wrap around her feelings on that day, she spent twenty-two years of her life battling the feelings of rejection that came as a result of events that followed this early memory.  Ethnic bias, childhood abuse, and the perception that her Type A personality was unacceptable to her family and to her teachers taught her to hide her true self, and it became clear to her that shame had an agenda — a curriculum —  that would rule her life if she allowed it to:

  1.  Shame teaches you to hide yourself, to hunker down wherever you can find a wall of protection.
  2.  Shame pushes you down and prevents you from becoming all you could be.
  3.  Shame whispers lies to your soul about the character of God and His love for you.

Overcoming these lies has been a miracle of grace in Christine’s life, and she shares her journey in Unashamed, and then challenges her readers to come out of hiding and accept the very same grace that God offered to Adam and Eve when they responded to His call and emerged from their long-ago hiding place.  The fact that their Genesis 2:25 status of shame-free living came to a crashing conclusion when they disobeyed God reveals the connection between shame and guilt.  Brene Brown helpfully distinguishes between the two:

Shame is “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.  .  . Guilt says, ‘You’ve done something bad.’ Shame says: ‘You are bad.’  There is a big difference between ‘you made a mistake’ and ‘you are a mistake.’

Christine summarizes it this way:

“Guilt is about my do.   Shame is about my who.”

Shame kept Adam and Eve hiding from God, rather than running to Him to deal with their guilt.

Enter:  The Gospel.

The rescuing truth is two-fold.  Romans 3:23 verifies our guilt; Psalm 139:14 testifies to our value and worth to God, and this is the truth around which we must shape our lives.  Christine calls the love of our crucified Savior “the key that will unfasten the shackles of shame.”

The same voice that coaxed Adam and Eve out of hiding invites you to be found and known.  The heart of compassion that brought the woman of Mark 5 out of hiding and into healing is found in the God who calls us “Daughter.”  He invites those who are tired of bleeding into His family where what is hidden in the dark is brought into the healing Light and loses its power.

Joining God in His work on this earth, Christine found Mercy and began living out the Truth that God could weave her leadership skills and her outgoing personality and her passion for ministry into His implementation of the Great Commission.

This did not happen overnight.

Overcoming fear of rejection, embracing her God-given power of choice to “move past her past,” looking at her future through a “resurrection lens” instead of a “shame lens,” and taking the risk of intimacy felt like coming out of a wilderness life and learning to live in deliverance and freedom.

Skillfully straddling memoir and manifesto, Christine shares lessons learned in the cauldron of leadership and the sometimes painful realization that “wounded people wound people, but healed people bind up wounds.”  In her personal journey from shattered to restored, God has set Christine’s course on the path of forgiveness and growing trust.  Working to rescue victims of trafficking and to help women “internalize a leadership identity and fulfill their purpose, passion, and potential” has been Christine’s way of living out her identity in Christ and of demonstrating to the world that none of the pain she endured in her past was wasted.  God has redeemed it all, and the message of Unashamed invites women to set their feet on Truth, “unwavering in purpose and unstoppable in [the journey] from shame-filled living to shame-free living.”

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This book was provided by Zondervan, through the BookLook Bloggers program, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

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Living Fully with a Broken Heart

For ten lovely years we were six.
I loved being six.  In fact, I loved it so much that my email address incorporates our last name and the number six.
However, numbers change as children grow up and take flight.  After our oldest son married, we were mostly five, but sometimes seven; and when son number two left for college we became four on a day-to-day basis.
But sometimes – gloriously – we are eight because of a grandboy.
I am blessed by this joyful numbering, but what happens when the numbers change for other than joyful reasons?

What if the numbers change because of the death of a child?

September Vaudrey has shared her story of decreasing numbers that came with the death of her middle daughter at the age of nineteen.  Colors of Goodbye is a story of hope in a minor key, a story of letting go.   When September sensed the voice of God saying, “I am good.  This tragedy does not change My character.  It doesn’t change who I am.  I am good,” she left the door of her heart open to receive evidence of this truth.  The resulting memoir is very personal, and yet manages to capture the experience of the entire family’s grief and to offer a record of helpful ways in which their community responded.

Although the author’s focus is definitely the death of her daughter Katie  from a cerebral aneurysm, the book is also about Katie’s life:  how she wanted to leave ripples in the lives she left behind; how her faith informed her art (and vice versa); how her strengths as well as her faults contributed to her role in the family.  Then, because Katie’s funeral occurs at about the half-way mark in Colors of Goodbye, the second half of the book provides a poignant travelogue of one family’s slow traverse through the desert of grief.

I have emerged from this gripping read with a series of impressions, a supply of common-sense advice for ministering grace to the grieving, and some forcefully expressive insights to the loss from which a parent never fully recovers:

  1.  Each family member must be free to grieve in his own way.  An extrovert, September struggled to understand the low-key responses of her introverted husband and children.  It appears that each tendency carries its unique freight of disadvantages with extroverts oversharing (to the horror of September’s children) and introverts “stuffing” their feelings, and, perhaps, slowing their process of healing.  Scott (Katie’s father, September’s husband) needed quiet and distance in order to grieve well.  He took on a landscaping project and the physical work probably helped.  By contrast, September needed to keep a vigil over Katie’s last hours in the hospital, to do Katie’s make-up and hair for the funeral, to take pictures of her daughter’s dying.  She shares the importance of having no regrets and the fact that, “From the very beginning, our grief looks starkly different — and equally right for us both.”  It is critical for families to give each other the space to grieve in the manner that seems right for them.

2.  When losing a child, “you grieve not only for your own loss, but for everyone else’s, too.”  September found that commonality of trauma gave mutual understanding.  “Pain is pain, no matter its source.”  However, the pain must be faced head on.

3.  God does not promise parents a lifetime with their children here on earth.  This was a truth that September had to return to again and again.  It was heartbreaking to read her accounts of pleading with God to turn back the clock:  “Let Katie have a headache.  We’ll take her to ER, they’ll detect the aneurysm, and this story can have a different ending.”  Scott Vaudrey’s prayer frames the Christian’s vantage point:  “How blessed we are that someday we will see her again.  We grieve deeply, but we grieve with hope.”

4.  The death of a child brings unique pain to a family.  Their other children will pose for up-to-date family pictures, will likely add spouses and kids to their photos —  while the picture of the child who has died remains frozen in time, out-dated, and unchanging.   The dead child will not be present in siblings’ wedding and graduation pictures.  There is a tendency for parents to over-protect and worry obsessively over the safety of remaining children, and divorce statistics for bereaved parents are very discouraging.

5.  The day after the funeral is not a finish line, but a starting line.  Several times in her dated entries from the three years following Katie’s death, September shared her feeling of being trapped in an endless season of waiting.  When will life get back to “normal”?  She worked her way through what she referred to as “death chores” (writing thank you notes, throwing away bouquets, dealing with paperwork such as medical bills and insurance details, disposing of possessions), trusting for release from pent up sorrow.  Even knowing intellectually that, at some point, she needed to accept her new life — her very different life — without five children, her heart still needed to process that brave surrender.

6.  September’s memoir is a valuable record of the body of Christ showing up in meaningful, appropriate, and significant ways for a grieving family.  I kept a running list of all the thoughtful and helpful acts of love the Vaudrey family received, and I hope that if someone close to me is suffering in that way,  I will remember to refer to that list.  It ranged from the small and practical (restaurant gift cards tucked into sympathy cards, making it clear that it’s o.k. to talk about the deceased and then listening with patience, providing meals for the family and help with the children) to the significant and symbolic (planting a tree in the yard in memory of the child, including the family in events that would have involved the child, noting anniversary dates, accompanying the parents in difficult duties associated with the child’s death).  September spoke fondly of her “posse of girlfriends” who ministered to her in ways that even her family was unable to do.

7.  The circumstances of Katie’s death made her an ideal organ donor.  The Vaudreys were open and accepting of this option, and September shares how this decision both helped and exacerbated their pain, while affirming that it was the right decision for them.

Colors of Goodbye displays with candor the entire palette of September Vaudrey’s journey through grief.  The truth of God’s mercy is put on display, and she trumpets with joy the blessed hope that the believer does not “sorrow as others who have no hope.”  On the other hand, this is no candy-coated misuse of Romans 8:28 with the error of “forcing . . . tragedy into some sort of beautiful blessing without giving nod to [the] lacerating loss.”

The Vaudreys’ lives were forever changed on May 31, 2008 when their daughter died.   I write as an outsider to this form of grief.  However, I believe that, by the grace of God, they have allowed (and I’m sure are still allowing) their heartache to transform their lives with a beauty and joy that is theirs because of (not in spite of) their pain and loss.

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This book was provided by Tyndale Momentum, an imprint of Tyndale House Publishers, in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

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A Gracious Plenty

Hanging laundry this morning to riotous birdsong, I carefully secured the corner of each bath towel, and then smiled, thinking of Nana.

“You go out there, and you hang that laundry so it looks right.”

I can’t remember —  did we roll our eyes back in the seventies?  “But it will dry just fine the way it is,”  I protested.  (I’m sure that we whined back in the seventies.)  “Nobody cares what our laundry looks like on the clothesline!”

“Don’t you kid yourself . . .”

Having grown up in the home of my grandparents, I have a shared perspective with author Drema Hall Berkheimer.  Her grandma, lovingly portrayed in Running on Red Dog Road, had the same “what-will-the-neighbors-think” basis for morality, but shored up with a hearty dose of Pentecostal Holiness doctrine.

There was no question about it:  in Drema’s growing-up world, Grandma was in charge of things.

Not only did Grandma always know God’s opinion on every topic, but she also knew when it was inappropriate to draw attention to oneself,  how Grandpa should drive, and, above all, what kind of quiet dignity should characterize a preacher’s family.  Her vigilance particularly applied to little girls who should, under no circumstances, be seen running down Fourth Avenue in small town East Beckley,  West Virginia.  Fourth Avenue was a red dog road, covered with the colorful waste products of the area’s robust coal mining industry, the industry that had claimed the life of the author’s father.  When her mother took a “Rosie the Riveter” job in New York, the center of Drema’s world shifted to her grandparents’ home.

Berkheimer’s memoir comes from the perspective of a precocious nine-year-old, sharing insights, sometimes hilarious and sometimes jarring, of life in World War II era America with its proud frugality and its humble abundance.  She attests to the fact that children could and did find ways to get into trouble back then and has peopled her tales with colorful characters that stay with the reader even after the last page has been read.

History lovers who enjoy period recipes will enjoy reading about Grandma’s policy to feed everyone, thoroughly and often.  Making a feast out of the tail end of a garden or slaughtering and then boiling the carcasses of an entire flock of chickens and then canning the meat, Grandma elevated “making do” to banquet fare.

Parents and teachers will enjoy reading a child’s perspective on the Christian faith.  Drema was convinced that sanctification was somehow tied up with the absence of feathers in ones wardrobe, and, based on what she had observed in church, she defined a testimony as “when someone got up and said what a terrible person he had been until he got saved.”  She worried that playing gin rummy might possible send her straight to hell — until she developed the fall-back plan of converting to Methodism when she grew up.  (Methodists were, apparently, allowed to play cards.)  Already well-versed in theodicy, she “suspected that God wasn’t always fair [based on] dealings I’d had with him,” and her top priority in Sunday worship was nabbing the pew fan with the picture of the blue-eyed Jesus.

Humor tinged with melancholy, stories that carry a quiet moral without preaching, and an understanding that the gifts of God are all good, Drema Berkheimer shares with her readers the “gracious plenty” of her own childhood and opens our eyes to the “wild, whooping” extravagance of God all around us, waiting to be seen in our own sacred places.

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This book was provided by Zondervan through the BookLook Bloggers program in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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